by Mike Masnick

Is VoIP Quality Getting Worse?

from the or-are-people-just-complaining-more? dept

People seem to have very mixed experiences with their VoIP service. Some say that it works perfectly -- just like traditional phone service. Others note that it's not quite as good, but good enough. Still others notice regular problems with the service. A new study, though, is claiming that VoIP service is getting steadily worse, based on people who test their service through the well known website. What's odd, though, is that the company immediately declares that the reason service has gotten worse over time (if only slightly) is because the network is congested with things like video files. Of course, that's a pretty big leap -- as there are a variety of possible explanations that have nothing to do with congested networks. It could very well be network related problems -- but without actual evidence it seems premature to automatically blame congestion. It could simply be that more people who are having problems have become aware of the TestYourVoip site. It could have something to do with the VoIP providers themselves. To automatically conclude it's congestion and then announce that tiering (breaking net neutrality) is needed would seem to need a bit more support.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    alaric, Jul 24th, 2006 @ 11:16pm

    Or maybe its the DSL- cable operators

    downgrading the priority of competing voip packages in their network. Believe me, it happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Xcetron, Jul 24th, 2006 @ 11:38pm

    Whats VoIP? Are those the things like Skype and such?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    therapist, Jul 24th, 2006 @ 11:45pm


    Yes, Voice over IP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    alf, Jul 24th, 2006 @ 11:47pm

    VOIP needs a cleanup!

    What they need to do is send a Lotto ball through the VOIP tubes and clean out all those video poker chips!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    artg, Jul 24th, 2006 @ 11:48pm

    It's a series of tubes...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Sen. Stevens, Jul 24th, 2006 @ 11:48pm

    Re: VOIP needs a cleanup!

    You know darned well that won't work without a little tube lube.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Xcetron, Jul 24th, 2006 @ 11:57pm

    Thought so.
    Well what they really need is to make it like the IM programs but using more bandwidth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    A. Coward, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 12:19am


    You know techdirt has gone mainstream when someone can ask "What is VoIP?"...and then in their next comment make suggestions about how "they" need to make it use more bandwidth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Xcetron, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 12:35am

    I'm just that popular, jk.
    And I meant more bandwidth than IM, not comparing to the normal VoIP now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    FotF, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 1:29am

    Whats interesting here is that the site is run by Brix Net which as you ppoint out, blames video as the error and teir based access as the solution.

    Brix is a communications solutions company and if you check out there investors...ho ho their VC comes in two cases, from groups which specialise in telecoms investment....mere coincidence?

    Its obvious that Brix is a supporter of the tier system and is doing its own bit of FUD, to promote it.

    Its sad that such things have to happen, via a back hand but then what do you expect from such.

    This site is about as likely to give you an unbias result, as George B would on Arabic cuisine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jason, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 5:33am

    Vonage's 'Reaction'

    I started using Vonage about 6 months ago. It was working great and after a while all the calls were staticy or just seemed to have co connection at all. There were no service faults on their end so I turned my blame to Comcast. In a way both were to blame. Vonage only gave a default bandwidth setting while Comcast couldnt seem to give that amount. Now Vonage has the option of setting your bandwidth and since fixing these settings I have had no further problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    J, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 6:27am

    IT Techs are Not Telecomms Engineers!

    There are several major issues with IP Telephony and Video at present. Many of these issues fundamentally are created by the humans involved with the systems, and not the systems themselves.

    The writer follows up on the suggestion that congestion may be to blame. Frankly, and I have to be blunt here, that's complete crap. Tell me, what happens when you don't recieve the entire data frame? Ahem.

    Issues really come from poor experience. The density of Asterisk and OH323 installs has increased dramatically over the past few years and this rise has not gone smoothly really. The issue is that now the VOIP is moving out of set top boxes (traditionally maintained by Telecomms engineers, in at least at the level of the underlying transport medium). Now we have software techs who treat the entire system, and bandwidth, in the same way they treat all other applications and services.

    There is a big difference however, between VOIP and say, a text messaging application. Text messages can have regular latency flux of well over 1s - such things are extremely destructive to a live phonecall. Poor implementations of both bandwidth control software, and configurations, as well as a poor understanding of the underlying requirements leads to these issues. As should have also been expected, many of the services were reliable and 'seamless' when first installed, but an understanding of growth was not properly considered in the first installation. This may even have come from the misunderstanding that "it's software, we can just change it when we get there".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    J, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 6:35am

    p.s. Not limited to personal installs

    Just as I maybe didn't make it clear, the issues I discussed are in no way limited to in-house engineers in small to medium sized businesses (of which many VIOP companies actually are I might add). The issues extend right into the service providers, and this almost suggests that good engineers are becoming increasingly hard to find. Possibly this is due to oversaturation of 'trained' engineers. In my opinion though, if your provider is not able to tell you WHY your service is bad in the first instance, they aren't even worth the time it would take to say 'goodbye' as you put the phone down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Jeff, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 6:37am

    astorturf alert.

    To echo FotF - These guys make a completely unsupported conclusion from data that doesn't even offer the data points they are drawing conclusions about and then states that this is why we need packet discrimination. If you can't see through this transparent attempt to astroturf the anti-net neutrality cause you really shouldn't be thinking about public policy issues at all. Fun to see that they are now trying to win over voip users, folks who have been strongly on the pro-neutrality side. One would hope that these folks, regardless of the trumped up congestion arguement, would see that net discrimination would eliminate their ability to use voip except through the nearly-as-expensive-as-pots telecom company versions.

    It's interesting to see that Cnet has taken sides in this fight, though given some of their past stories, not surprising. Still, the editors should be ashamed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 7:04am

    I have vonage

    and I know what happens when the bandwidth is being used by something else. The voice has a delay to it. I know this because my network at home is set up right and I have no problems with my Comcast connection. When I'm not downloading anything there are no problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    J, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 7:14am

    Control at teh right Point

    Those involved in providing a practical balence between neutrality and reality will tell you clearly that the only links which need control are the last-mile or choke-width links. These should be consumer controlled, not carrier controlled, as clearly it is the consumers preference to have reliable comms first. Carriers prioritizing data by higher level content (IP content on MLPS links, or VOIP content on IP for example) will break proprietary communications, damage encrypted tunnel performance and so on, providing a less predictable flow where previously congestion routines would provide a best-effort 'fair' division. You probably all understand these issues individually and the others involved, however the point of removing all control simply creates appalling performance in many scenarios, for example small business VOIP circuits over ADSL is unworkable if maintained completely neutral, as proven by Chrono S. Trigger above, if you don't wish to simply think about it yourself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    BC, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 8:12am does not appear to be testing my VoIP. It is testing their VoIP over my connection. The two are not synonymous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Zorro, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 8:39am

    Dump Truck

    The Internet is not a DUMP TRUCK!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    GL, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 8:41am

    Public vs. Private IP

    I just cancelled my contract with Packet 8. After a year (had a contract), and many calls to their techs, they were unable to resolve issues with latency, poor sound quality etc... I just switched to Comcast and the difference is night and day. Comcast routes the voice calls over private IP which means they can prioritize the voice packets and the sound quality is much better...akin to the ILEC. I don't know how Packet 8 and others (Vonage) can stay in business if the sound quality I received is indicative of what others get.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    the doctor, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 9:33am

    voip service

    voip doesn't need tiering at all, what voip needs is terminators that don't suck ass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Mikael, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 9:36am

    It's very simple...

    VoIP from home or over a wireless network such as your local starbucks all have the same problem: Mixing regular internet traffic with VoIP traffic. If you only use an internet connections, say in an office, for VoIP it works very well, but the second somebody starts surfing, downloading or e-mailing on the same connection VoIP data packages are delayed.

    My conclusion is that VoIP is very good. The quality resemblems GSM (cell phone) quality due to compression, but don't blame the carrier if your own internet connection is being used for other things at the same time.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Tashi, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 11:34am

    I heard something very interesting on NPR. Companies that own the pipes (like oh say Time Warner) who offer VoIP prioritize their packets. So VoIP from Time Warner gives you better quality of service over the other competition. Could that have something to do with it? If so, net neutrality is already going out the window.

    And yes VoIP isn't exactly plug-n-play. Configuring the protocols can be an issue that hinders quality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Kalle Anka, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 12:48pm

    Re: It's very simple...

    In addition VoIP over IPv4 internet suffers from another problem, lack of Quality of Service(QoS) and the possibility to reserve resources on the Internet-path for the VoIP-call.
    Usually ISP's can handle this by securing over-capacity in their network but the problem is close to the user.
    I've been waiting for IPv6 to start appearing at home-users, then VoIP could become more accepted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    dave, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 1:40pm

    VoIP QoS

    The IP packets arent prioritized, they are given a guaranteed quality of service (in terms of bandwidth, jitter, etc) across the HFC plant.

    Why would you want it any other way? Otherwise when the network is busy. e.g. You neighbor is running an ftp server, your call quality would suck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2006 @ 1:57pm

    clarifications with vonage

    I saw someone say they had used vonage for 6 months and that they recently allowed consumers to specify the bandwidth they use. I have been a happy vonage customer for almost three years and i adjusted my bandwidth over two years ago- it is not a new feature.

    also, vonage offers a router that you should use at the front end of your network connection- it will prioritize voip traffic above all other home traffic for the internet so that downloading will not affect your voip connection.

    overall, i love the service they provide and recommend them for to my friends and family. they are losing a lot of money fast and i am making some $ by being short their stock. as a customer, they offered me shares as part of the ipo. i researched it carefully, and decided to short them as soon as possible. the service is great, but the more people signup, the faster they lose money! go figure!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Billy, Jul 27th, 2006 @ 6:39pm

    Re: Vonage's 'Reaction'

    vonage sucks! and you cant take it with you - we need a mobile solution to making cheap voip calls to international destinations. any suggestions?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    jj, Jul 31st, 2006 @ 11:51am

    Re: It's very simple...

    i check out your website - and globe dialer is pretty cool - how's your voip service? i assume you are using voip to get those cheap international rates...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Mikael, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 6:59am

    Re: Re: It's very simple...

    Yes, Globe Dialer uses VoIP, and we only use "premium" termination.

    This means we avoid all the homegrown SIM gateways and the like. Many of our customers use our service from their mobile phone (where QoS can be bad enough in some places) and we want to offer a quality user experience. So htere is realy no alternative.

    Having said that, there are always going to be countries around the world, where it simply isn't posible to get a good connections all the time.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    phil, Aug 9th, 2006 @ 6:31pm

    Re: clarifications with vonage

    well - if vonage was smart they would try to stay ahead of the curve - and buy a company like the one that developed globe dialer. so then you could get the vonage quality from your mobile.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    stanley, Aug 22nd, 2006 @ 4:45pm

    Re: Re: clarifications with vonage

    vonage has no money to buy GlobeDialer - they are finished!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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